Le Baudelaire at Le Burgundy Hotel
6/8, rue Duphot
Tél. 01 42 60 34 12
As an ex-pat in Paris, it’s easy to drop into Anglophone life. But I didn’t move here to live in an artificial bubble of Americana. I like speaking the language and hanging out with Frenchie friends. But, my writing skills en français are another matter and 52 Martinis comes to you only in English. So, when Alambic approached me about translating my posts into French for their online magazine, my reaction was: Right on! I’m not sure how they will deal with some of my more creative words or flippant phrases, but it’s cool 52 will be coming at you in French. And to seal the deal, their main man, Sébastien Foulard, and I met to sign the contract over a drink at le Baudelaire bar of l’Hotel Burgundy.
Le Burgundy, a discretely under-the-radar five star hotel, is home to the modern and comfortable Baudelaire Bar – and also the location where the poet’s affects were auctioned off after his death. As part of the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, the bar takes up two rooms with heavy curtains, sophisticated furnishings and a red and gold ceiling fresco inspired by Baudelaire’s “Fleurs du Mal”, which pops against the dramatic blue walls.
While, le Burgundy bills itself as a cognac bar with at least 60 references on hand, cocktail-seekers should find some sipping alternatives off the mixed drinks menu that range from 19 to 21 Euros. I passed over the Skyy Martini section of seven, paused a little longer over the six Champagne cocktails, toyed with the Signatures and eventually went for something in the Old’s Cool. This selection of classics includes a Vieux Carré, Brandy Crusta, Champs Elysées and the happy addition of a lesser-referenced oldie, the Japanese.
My Brandy Crusta was nicely presented in a sugar rimmed wine glass and conformed to a classic recipe, and you can’t go wrong with that. Sébastien went for the Japanese, which varied slightly from the original Jerry Thomas’ guide recipe with the addition of lemon juice and – I suspect – a slight reduction in the amount of Angostura bitters (which seems to be the general adaptation for this drink). This made for a well-balanced drink and probably also conforms better to current palates.
In an unusual move, I had skipped my usual martini order because head barman, Christopher, had previously worked at the Royal Monceau and my thought was I was already familiar with his solid skills so wouldn’t be surprised by a martini he made elsewhere. However, Sebastian convinced me otherwise, and I reverted to a martini for my second order, which was a good call. Christopher suggested a rather classic recipe of half and half proportions with a few dashes of orange bitters or a martini to my specification. I took a wet (but not 50/50) Tanqueray martini, with orange bitters and a twist. It arrived, icy cold, on a slate tray with the elegant touch of a side of vermouth wash and extra zest. Of course, I also had a taste of Sebastian’s julep, which went down easily.
All ingredients are fresh and Christopher has the background and skills to pull off the cocktails as well as provide the excellent service. He tells us they are looking at running some Prohibition themed evenings. While I always like the idea of reaching ever further with cocktail programs, I would love to see themed evenings that branch out into something beyond an already established aspect of cocktail culture. However, I believe this is generally indicative of the workings a hotel bar, in which visiting guests are more likely to expect menus to reflect current trends rather than break them.
That said, sometimes nothing beats an elegant hotel bar and all the niceties that come with it. In addition to the soothing environment, refined service and stylish surroundings, the Burgundy puts out some sophisticated bar snacks and adds more personalized touches such as heavy ice balls in the water glasses (often reserved in bars just for whiskies or certain cocktails.) Another addition they’re making to the 5 star bar experience is bringing in the DJ’s. So, the crowd that previously did their lux lounging at the Ritz before its closing is making a new home here for a bit of music and mixology.
So, not only was I happy to be meeting up with Sebastian for a drink to celebrate collaboration with Alambic, I was happy to discover this intimate hotel bar with its understated elegance instead of oversaturated hype. And that, I did all in French.